65% Increase in Basketball Revenue for Small-Market Paper

by Lorie Gallagher Rockford Register Star

Case Study Highlights

  • 65% increase in revenue year-over-year
  • 10 more sponsors than previous year
  • Builds advertiser relationships

The Idea

The Rockford Register Star is a circulation 24,000 paper out of Rockford, Illinois. We have a basketball tournament bracket campaign called the College Hoops Challenge. In our first year we were able to secure 22 sponsorships for a total of $46,000 in revenue, but we wanted to do even more our second year.

The Execution

Our team brainstormed how we could turn the College Hoops bracket into a more robust campaign. We expanded by offering additional advertising opportunities with our paper and turned College Hoops from a simple one-month contest into a three-month campaign.

We created five levels of sponsorship packages to attract even more local businesses. Each package centers around the basketball bracket, but also includes print and digital marketing assets as well.

In our top sponsorship levels, the packages included the option of ‘homepage takeover days’ on key basketball game days. These gave the advertiser maximum exposure on our website during days we received the most traffic.

Rockford Hoops Sales Packages

This year we also created a simple, behind-the-scenes bracket just for our advertisers. This fun bracket got businesses excited to buy a sponsorship package and be involved in the campaign. Depending on the level of sponsorship package the advertiser purchased, they received a number of entries – or basketball teams – into this unique bracket. The selection of teams is randomized and, if their team makes it to the final four or championship game, the business wins a free half or full page ad in our April issue.

We focused our sales efforts on the top packages, but offering a basic package allowed us to also target smaller businesses and get new advertisers on board. The prospects we went after for our top packages were larger automotive, home services (spring cleaning!), travel agencies, and financial businesses.

When it came to marketing the campaign itself, we leveraged print, digital, social media, and email. A lot of these materials highlight the $1,000,000 and Playstation 4 Pro national prizes included in the Second Street turnkey College Hoops bracket.

The Results

With these new packages, we secured ten additional sponsors and generated $76,000 in revenue – 65% more than last year! Our advertisers love the value of the package and the database growth they get during this campaign. We’ve found the advertiser bracket is a great way to build relationships with our advertisers and keep them engaged.

While our bracket was a success it’s first year, we were blown away by the success from the second year. We surpassed our number of entries from last year and laid the groundwork for next year to be even bigger!

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